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Utah legislative session domestic violence legislation
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Utah Senate supports increasing penalty for repeat domestic violence offenders

(Utah State Capitol Complex. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Utah Senate is a step closer to passing a bill that would enhance the penalty for third-time domestic violence offenders.

Beefing up domestic violence penalties in Utah

Lawmakers say they hope to lower the state’s high rate of domestic violence deaths.

Under current law, domestic violence offenses only carry a class A misdemeanor. This bill would modify the state’s criminal code to make it a third-degree felony for someone who commits domestic violence when they have two previous domestic violence convictions within the previous 10 years.

Juvenile records would not count as previous convictions.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, says the bill was conceived by a working group comprised of police, victim advocates, courts, prosecutors and others.

“Domestic violence is cyclical in nature and escalates over time,” she explained Tuesday. “Also, there is a risk of lethality that is always attached to domestic violence. Statistically looking at the number of fatalities in Utah, an overwhelming amount of them are related to domestic violence.”

Senators agree change is needed

Others speaking out favorably include Senators Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, and Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City.

“This enhancement is very unique,” Escamilla said. “If you look at the data… there is enough evidence that it does impact the outcomes of these cases. It reduces lethality, which is critical.”

“There are times when an enhancement is both necessary and data proven to get better outcomes, and this is one of those cases,” said Thatcher. “We have a crisis of domestic violence murders in the state of Utah and this bill will directly impact those rates and those numbers.”

The bill passed unanimously in a preliminary Senate vote, suggesting it will likely receive passage in its final vote.

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Domestic violence resources

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online:

People in abusive relationships can get help by contacting:

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